Team Leadership

Leadership is an important factor in the process of building teams. The main objective of a true leader is to help a group of people or an organization to reach a common goal by guiding, motivating and getting the best efforts from each group member. Leadership and management are not the same thing. While leadership involves many management skills, it relies on inspiration, trust, respect, attitude, personal character and decision-making.

Effective leadership seeks to align the needs of the individuals with the aims of the organization. The leader should serve the members of the team, not the other way around. Ineffective leaders often look to achieve personal status by taking advantage of others. To become a true leader, one has to maintain solid relationships with people and for this reason it is vital that the leader has numerous attitudinal qualities. These include honesty, humility, commitment, confidence, courage, sincerity, positivity, passion, determination and compassion. These qualities may result in a charismatic effect that helps attract followers. Terrific technical and intellectual capacity might be useful but is not that crucial for effective leadership.

Leadership is characterized with a strong belief in the ability to reach a goal. The skills needed to lead may be developed with time by anyone who has the desire to become a leader and who is determined to achieve something in particular. As team building activities include games and exercises, so does the process of leadership development. In the development of leaders, such training games ought to involve as many people as possible, since this usually provides a bigger challenge. However, the actual exercises need to be simple and to provide leaders with opportunities to consider various approaches to cope with each obstacle on their way.

The styles of performing leadership may vary depending on different situations. In 1939, German-American psychologist Kurt Lewin led a group of researchers to study and distinguish the different leadership styles. Three major types of approaches were identified: authoritarian or autocratic, participative or democratic; and delegative or free rein.

Through the authoritarian style, leaders normally want to complete the assigned task as fast as possible as they have little time, the members are motivated enough and all the necessary information is available. It is basically telling people what they need to do as well as how and when exactly it should be done.

The participative style, which is considered the most effective style of leadership, brings benefits to both sides. It calls for the leader and one or more team members to collaborate on figuring out the ways of reaching the final goal. Although the leader is open to suggestions, he or she still has to make the final decision on the matter. This style is used when the leader only has part of the information required to pursue the objective, while the other members of the group complement with their knowledge and skills.

The delegative style provides for all decisions to be made by the members, while the leader identifies the priorities and delegates certain goals. This style is used when the team members are highly qualified, have all of the needed information, and the leader trusts them without reservation.

It is usually thought that good leaders are able to use all three styles, while bad ones rely on one approach only. Depending on the circumstances, a combined style may also become an option. In order to decide on how to approach the situation, a leader has to take into account a number of other factors such as group relationships, internal conflicts and disputes, stress levels as well as task difficulty.

Leaders may be judged based on the way they communicate and interact with group members. They may choose to support individuals psychologically by expressing interest in their human needs and helping them deal with their personal problems. On the other hand, leaders may count on using pressure to make people hurry and to increase their production, but this frequently proves to be ineffective. Dominant leadership is not the best option since it most often leads to resistance from the team. Instead, leaders should pay more attention on encouragement, recognition, inclusiveness and so on.

Team Leadership: Selected full-text books and articles

The Psychology of Leadership: New Perspectives and Research By David M. Messick; Roderick M. Kramer Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005
Librarian's tip: Chap. 6 "Rethinking Team Leadership or Team Leaders Are Not Music Directors" and Chap. 7 "Leadership as Group Regulation"
From Management Goal Setting to Organizational Results: Transforming Strategies into Action By Keith Curtis Quorum Books, 1994
Librarian's tip: Chap. 14 "Team Leadership"
Putting a New Spin on Groups: The Science of Chaos By Bud A. McClure Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005 (2nd edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. 7 "Group Leadership: Working with Chaos," Chap. 9 "Group Leadership: The Descent," and Chap. 10 "Group Leadership: The Ascent"
Leader Development for Transforming Organizations: Growing Leaders for Tomorrow By David V. Day; Stephen J. Zaccaro; Stanley M. Halpin Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
Librarian's tip: "Team Leadership" begins on p. 295 and Chap. 13 "Developing Teams and Team Leaders: Strategies and Principles"
Empowerment and Democracy in the Workplace: Applying Adult Education Theory and Practice for Cultivating Empowerment By John R. Dew Quorum Books, 1997
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "Creating an Empowerment Planning Team and Creating Team Leaders"
Communication in the Design Process By Stephen A. Brown Spon Press, 2001
Librarian's tip: "Roles, Teams and Leadership in Practice" begins on p. 47
Recruitment, Retention, and Employee Relations: Field-Tested Strategies for the '90s By D. Keith Denton Quorum Books, 1992
Librarian's tip: "Team Leadership" begins on p. 136
The Influence of Top Management Team Leadership on Corporate Refocusing: A Theoretical Framework By Krishnan, Hema A.; Park, Daewoo Journal of Leadership Studies, Vol. 5, No. 2, Spring 1998
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Project Manager and Project Team Involvement: Implications for Project Leadership By Grant, Kevin P.; Graham, T. Scott; Heberling, Michael E Journal of Leadership Studies, Vol. 7, No. 4, Spring 2001
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Leadership Processes in Virtual Teams and Organizations By Oakley, Judith G Journal of Leadership Studies, Vol. 5, No. 3, Summer 1998
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Leadership Challenges in Global Virtual Teams: Lessons from the Field By Kerber, Kenneth W.; Buono, Anthony F SAM Advanced Management Journal, Vol. 69, No. 4, Autumn 2004
Leadership in Early Childhood By Jillian Rodd Allen & Unwin, 2006
Librarian's tip: Chap. 8 "Building and Leading a Team"
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